Travel Diary – Tunisia Part Two

Tunis is one of North Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities – bustling and brash but friendly and laid-back at the same time, it is a city of contradictions.

The city’s 8th Century Arab Medina (Old Town) is an exotic labyrinth of twisting streets and alleyways. The 19th century French Colonial new city with its sprawling palm lined boulevards, cafes and trams, is orderly and calm in comparison, and both equally have their charm.

Here are some of my favourite things to do in Tunisia’s capital and the surrounding area.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Visit Carthage – Take the train from Tunis Marine TGM Station to Carthage, Hannibal Station to visit the ruins of ancient Carthage. Although the ruins are quite scarce in comparison with some sites I’ve visited they are still well worth a visit, with their seafront location and stunning views over the area. The on-site Carthage Museum houses many of the finds from the excavation of the site.

000029000010Carthage Museum 000027

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000028The ruins are located in an idyllic spot, overlooking the seaTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Explore the ancient Medina – In the centre of Tunis the 8th century Medina is a fascinating place to spend a day exploring. With its tangled alleyways it is easy to get lost, but you will always find your way back to the Great Mosque – Djemma ez Zaitouna (Olive Tree Mosque).

Shop for souvenirs including colourful carpets, spices and leather goods in the bustling Souq, and don’t forget to bargain. Whilst Arabic and French are the main languages, English is also widely spoken and understood.

The Medina is also home to enormous key-lock shaped doors, inquisitive cats, and restaurants serving traditional Tunisian dishes.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogGiant key-lock shaped  doors are a dominant feature throughout MedinaTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogColourful souvenirs on offer in the SouqTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Djemma ez Zaitouna (Olive Tree Mosque) – While non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the prayer hall of the Medina’s great mosque, you are able to visit the exterior courtyard. Organised tours are also available.

The rooftop of a nearby shop offers stunning views over the mosque and the Medina below.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogIntricate tiles on the rooftop of a nearby shop frame the Great Mosque Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogColourful carpets provide contrast to the whitewashed walls of the Medina Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Spending a day exploring the charming seaside village of Sidi Bou Said – just 20 minutes from Tunis, the seaside village of Sidi Bou Said is easy to reach by train, or as part of a day tour.

Perched on cliff tops above the Mediterranean, this pretty blue and white village is home to many local artists and is also a favourite getaway for city-dwellers over the weekend. Read more about Sidi Bou Said in last weeks post here.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogBougainvillea draped buildings are characteristic of the blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said 

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogColourful studded doors line the streets of the village Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Follow in the footsteps of the stars and visit Fella Boutique – Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo have all shopped in Fella Boutique at some point. Run by world renowned designer, Samia Bin Khalifa since the 1960’s, this small boutique in Tunis is a treasure trove of intricate handmade Tunisian dresses, colourful kaftans and jewellery.

Location: 9 bis Place Pasteur, Tunis Belvédère 1002

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part 2 |Gypsy Rova BlogThe Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul on Avenue Habib Bourguiba

Have you visited Tunisia? I’d love to hear about your experiences and favourite spots in the comments below!

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Female Travellers: 20 Safety Tips

Safety can be a big concern for female travellers, especially when you’re travelling alone. When my sister and I first started to travel overseas, we would get a lot of advice from well meaning friends and relatives that we used to refer to at the time as ‘scaremongers’.

While I think you can take many of the nightmare travel stories you hear with a grain of salt, there are some precautions you can take which will make you feel more prepared for any situation and in control of your safety.

After many years of working as a travel agent and flight attendant, I have done more than my share of solo travel. These are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.

20 Travel Safety Tips For Female Travellers | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

1. Don’t advertise your room number  – whether you’re arranging to meet friends later, or charging something back to your room in the hotel restaurant, be careful who is within earshot when you’re giving out your room number or the name of your hotel.

2. Use your do not disturb sign – if you have valuables in your room, leave the do not disturb sign on the door when you’re heading out to help prevent theft. Lock laptops, cameras and any other valuables in the hotel safe or your suitcase.

3. Be social media savvy – in a world where our private lives have become very public its a good idea to be cautious about sharing your travel plans online. If you’re posting on Instagram or Facebook turn location services off and don’t advertise your plans for the next few days.

4. Blend in nothing screams ‘I’m a tourist’ like a backpack, belt bag and a map. Try to blend in with the locals and dress as you would if you lived there to avoid unwanted attention. As convenient as a day pack is, they are easier for an opportunistic pick pocket to access when you’re distracted.  Instead, opt for a cross body bag which will still fit everything you need, but can be worn towards the front so you can keep a good eye on it when you’re walking around or on public transport.

5. Check in with family or friends at home – it’s always a good idea to leave a rough itinerary with a friend or family member at home. If you’re travelling alone arrange to check in daily with someone – a quick text message or email to a friend or family member is all  it takes to keep them up to date with your movements.

6. Use trusted taxi companies only – when you’re running late to get to the airport or you’re tired and just want to get back to your hotel it can be tempting to jump into any taxi that’s available. Always check which are the reputable taxi companies in your destination and use their cars only. It can also be a good idea to make a habit of noting the licence plate of the taxi you’re in, in case you leave any of your belongings in the taxi.

7. Respect local customs – do your research on local customs before you travel. Abide by local dress codes and respect their values to avoid causing unnecessary offence and confrontation.

8. Always take out travel insurance – insurance can be one of those things that seems like just another expense, especially if you are travelling on a budget, but with medical costs being so high for non-citizens in many countries, it really is essential. Most travel insurance will also cover you against loss or theft of your belongings.

9. Language barriers – in a country where you don’t speak the language, it is always a good idea to get one of the hotel staff to write the name and address of your hotel in the local language on a piece of paper for you to pass to taxi drivers in case you have trouble communicating.

10. Trust your intuition – if your gut says no, don’t do it. When a friend and I were visiting the pyramids in Egypt a man offered to show us a spot where you could get the best view. At the time it didn’t feel right and we didn’t go. We later heard that it is a popular scam to lead you away from the main tourist area and rob you. Nine times out of ten your intuition will be right, so listen to it.

11. Research scams – ok so it’s not the most exciting thing to research before you travel abroad, but as they say forewarned is forearmed. Just do a quick google search for common tourist scams in your destination so you know what to watch out for. Chances are you won’t come across them, but it’s a good feeling to be prepared.

12. Wear a fake wedding ring – I wouldn’t suggest that you need to do this all the time, however, if you’re travelling to an area where you feel that you may stand out and attract a lot of unwanted attention from the opposite sex, a fake wedding ring can help to avoid the problem. In saying that, the mention of a fiancé or boyfriend may well have the same effect.

13. Carry only what cash you need with you – work out roughly what cash you will need for the day and leave the rest in your hotel safe. Keep a separate coin purse for tipping and making small purchases so you’re not having to get your wallet out more than necessary. Keep some spare cash and a credit card hidden somewhere in your suitcase for emergencies.

14. Check the location of the nearest fire exit from your room – when you check into your hotel room, memorise which direction the nearest fire exit is and how many doors that you need to pass to get to it in case visibility is limited. I once woke up to a fire alarm in a hotel in the middle of the night, and was so disorientated that I struggled to remember which city I was in, let alone where the exit was. Luckily it was a minor fire, however, had it been serious I would have struggled to find my way out.

15. Don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry designer handbags – it can be tempting to want to look as good as possible, especially in fashionable destinations like Milan or Rome. You can still look great, but avoid the temptation to draw attention to yourself by showing off your best designer gear and jewellery.

16. Get your bearings – whenever I’m in a new city I tend to do some sort of city tour on my first day to get my bearings and give me a feel for the areas that are safe and others that are perhaps best to avoid. The hop on hop off tours are great as you generally get a 48 hour ticket, which allows you to spend more time visiting any of the sights that you didn’t have time to visit on the first day.

17. Make friends with other female travellers –  day trips are a great way to meet other travellers and make friends. When I was visiting Los Angeles alone, I met two lovely ladies on a day tour and ended up meeting up with them for dinner that evening. I always find dinner time to be quite lonely when I’m travelling alone, so if you can find other ladies in the same situation it can really make a difference.

18. Drinking – I have been unlucky enough to have had my drink spiked while in a bar in Melbourne and it was not a pleasant experience at all! Thankfully, I was with a group of girls who soon realised what had happened when I collapsed. If you’re out in bars try to order bottled drinks that are opened in front of you, and never leave your drink unattended. It sounds like an obvious one, but when you’re travelling it can be so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and let your guard down after a couple of drinks.

19. Budget extra – when you’re planning your trip budget a little extra to allow you to change accommodation at the last minute if you feel unsafe, or hail a taxi rather than walking alone at night.

20. Register with your governments, relevant travel safety authority – 

UK Citizens: follow the Foreign Office on Twitter: https://twitter.com/foreignoffice

US Citizens: register with U.S. Department of State

NZ Citizens: register with Safe Travel

Australian Citizens: register with Smarttraveller

Canadian Citizens: register with Registration of Canadians abroad

I’d love to hear any of your top travel safety tips in the comments below.

Safe travels!

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15 Travel Photography Tips

You’re about to set off on the trip of a lifetime and want to make sure that you capture your adventure and create treasured memories for years to come.

Here are some of my top travel photography tips which I’ve tried and tested over the years!

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova Blog

1. Research – before you set off, do some research on your destination and make a list of the types of images you’d like to take. Use Pinterest and instagram for inspiration. The list of possible subjects is endless:

Landscapes
Weather and skyscrapers
People
Wildlife
Activities and sports
Details and close-ups
Transport
Architecture
Street scenes
Festivals and events
Markets
Culture (food, arts, traditions)

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand

2. Be organised – always pack spare memory cards and battery packs. There is nothing worse than having your camera battery suddenly go flat when you’re on the Great Wall of China, (believe me I speak from experience!). Carry a portable tripod if you have one and if not improvise and use walls, fences and trees to steady your camera. Have a waterproof bag of some sort easily accessible to protect your camera from the elements.

3. Make the most of the weather – if the weather isn’t great don’t be defeated. Dark stormy skies, foreboding clouds, mist and fog can all make for some really atmospheric shots so use them to your advantage.

4. Always be prepared – when you’re on the road amazing photo opportunities can pop up at any time. Have your camera where it is easily accessible rather than in a backpack. If you’re concerned about the safety of having your expensive camera visible, have your phone or smaller camera on hand for on the go shots that you need to capture quickly.

5.  Beat the crowds – it can be really hard to get shots of famous landmarks when they are swarmed with people. Travel out of season, or get up early to beat the crowds. Trust me – it’s worth it!

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken in Santorini, Greece during golden hour

6. Plan for the light – avoid shooting in the middle of the day. Wait for golden hour – usually during the first two hours of morning light and the last two of the afternoon when the light is soft and warm. This is especially great for landscapes.

7. Leading the eye – ask yourself what is the point of interest in the photo. What do you want to viewer to look at? Use paths, roads, fences, tracks, or rows of buildings to create a straight path to the point of interest. An example would be a path leading to an archway.

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova Blog            Photo taken in Wellington, New Zealand

8. Frame your subject – take advantage of doorways, gates, arches, windows, trees and fences to frame your subject. This adds interest and depth to an image.

9. Detail – don’t forget to take photos of the small details that you love about a destination. They help to provide a sense of place and tell the full story of your trip in years to come when you look back.

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken at Alhambra Palace, Granada 

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken in Beijing, China

10. Change your viewpoint – we’ve all seen the same old shots of the Eiffel Tower and other famous landmarks. For a fresh take on a subject change your viewpoint. Get down low and shoot upwards or find a high viewpoint for a different point of view.

11. Foreground interest – colourful flowers, plants, shells and pebbles can all create interest in what could otherwise be quite a dull scene.

12. Protect your equipment – pack your gear well and if at all possible carry it in your carry on case to prevent damage or loss. Invest in a travel insurance policy that covers your camera and any lenses or other expensive equipment.

13. Do a walking tour – exploring a destination on foot allows you to get up close and take your time. You’ll see things you would never experience from a tour bus and will have some great photo opportunities.

14. People – Including people in your photos adds interest. If you want to take close ups always make sure you ask first. If you’re too shy to approach people include people from a distance, for example someone cycling past.

15 Travel Photography Tips | Gypsy Rova BlogPhoto taken in Old Stone Town, Zanzibar

15. Book a room with a view – if you can afford it splash out and book a room with a view. In a city it will provide a great vantage point for photos and if you’re by the beach, just think of the sunsets you can capture from your balcony!

You can follow along with me and my personal travels on instagram @gypsyrova

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15 Things I Can’t Travel Without

So you’re finally ready to go on that overseas trip that you’ve worked so hard to save up for, and now it’s time to decide what to pack. After many years spent living out of a suitcase, I’ve come up with a list of essential travel items that make my life much easier and more pleasant on the road. Enjoy!

 

15 Things I Can't Travel Without | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

1. Pashmina or scarf – I always have a pashmina in my carry on bag as an extra layer for those long chilly flights. They’re also great as a cover up for your shoulders when visiting temples and other religious sites, and for those cooler evenings.

2. Portable charger – There is nothing worse than having your phone battery die on you when you’re out and about and need to use the camera, get directions or check your emails, so I always carry a portable charger for battery emergencies.

3. Tiger balm – This little jar of goodness has so many uses. Apart from treating any muscle aches and pains, its a great insect repellant and also helps stop itching if you do get bitten. I rub it on my temples to relieve headaches and it can be used as a chest rub if you’re coming down with the dreaded cold. I recommend the Tiger Balm White formula which won’t stain your clothes or sheets.

4. Argan oil – I don’t know about you, but when I travel anywhere humid, my hair instantly becomes an uncontrollable frizzy mess! Moroccan Argan Oil is definitely a lifesaver – it smells great and a tiny bit goes a long way. It can be used on wet or dry hair to tame those fly-away strands, and it also comes in a 25ml size which is great for travelling.

 

5. Face wipes – Make-up wipes are great for those long-haul flights when you feel worse for wear, and all you want to do is wash your face and freshen up.

6. Body Shop Vitamin C Energising Face Spritz – I also carry a refreshing face spray in my carry on, to spray in-flight. For those hot holiday destinations pop some in the fridge to cool you down by the pool – bliss! I love this inexpensive citrus scented Body Shop Vitamin C version.

15 Things I Can't Travel Without | Gypsy Rova Blog

7. Camera  – When I’m exploring somewhere new, you’ll rarely see me without a camera of some description in front of my face. I always carry my Canon EOS SLR, an extra battery pack, (I’ve been caught out too many times), an extra memory card and a wireless remote. I also pack my GoPro and GorillaPod for those ‘on the go’ situations.

15 Things I Can't Travel Without | Gypsy Rova Blog

 

 

8. Kindle – I must admit I’ve always been a book lover and when kindles first came out I was a bit snobbish about them. That was until I actually took one on holiday and realised how convenient it was to have so many great reads at my fingertips without the added weight to my luggage.

9. Electronics organiser – The last time I was on holiday with my husband, we were constantly digging around in our bags trying to find chargers for our various phones, cameras, etc. With so many electronic devices to pack, I was very excited when I discovered this Cordito Cord & Plug Rollup from This is Ground – definitely on my wish list!

15 Things I Can't Travel Without | Gypsy Rova Blog10. Lip balm – Dry chapped lips can definitely be a problem between dehydrating flights and days spent in the sun, so I always have some on hand when I’m travelling.

11. Sun hat – Apart from providing much needed shade, a sun hat is a must for those bad hair days. When packing, stuff the crown of your hat with small soft items like sarongs, bathing suits and socks. Lay the brim flat and pack small items around it to maintain its shape.

12. Coin purse – There’s nothing worse than a heavy purse full of unused, small change at the end of a holiday. Carry a small separate coin purse for easy access while you’re travelling. It’s great for buying small items like bottles of water, postcards and for tipping.

13. Noise cancelling headphones – Ear buds are fine for short-haul flights, but on longer trips they can become really uncomfortable. It’s definitely worth investing in some noise cancelling headsets, which are not only more comfortable, but are great for blocking out unwanted aircraft noise – particularly if you’re seated near the galley. They don’t have to break the bank either – these AERO 7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are reasonably priced and come with an aeroplane kit and a handy travel case.

14. Hand Sanitiser – I’m a bit of a germophobe at the best of times, and even more so when travelling. Between aircraft toilets, public transport and less than sanitary public bathrooms it can be hard to keep your hands clean on the go, and who wants to eat with germy hands. I love Bath and Body Works PocketBac hand sanitisers, which come in a range of amazing scents.

15. Journal or notebook – While apps like Evernote are great for making notes on the go, I still like to carry a notebook or journal for when inspiration strikes. It’s nice to record your travels, and have a memento to look back on. I love this gorgeous ‘Swept Away By Wanderlust’ travel journal from Axel & Ash.

What are some of your travel essentials? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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15 Things I Can't Travel Without | Gypsy Rova Blog